The genius of the Loffi cycling gloves is that it’s self explanatory. Since the sixties the Smiley Face has been recognised in popular culture as a symbol of positivity; from the “Have A Nice Day” movement to the British Acid House scene in the late 80’s and into the digital age which is filled with a plethora of emoticons 🙂 and emojis 😀.
When you bring the smiley face into the world of cycling, it becomes contrasts to the politicised “war against cycling”, a welcome relief from an otherwise unfriendly transport environment. The Loffi cycling glove is pitched towards improving the interactions of bicycle riders on the roads. In the scope of cycling advocacy, it is not a confronting approach but there are also no illusions of it being a magic bullet aimed to solve all of the problems faced by bike riders. But what it can do is help spread positivity and brighten someones day.
The cycling gloves are the brain-child of English architect Jack Hudspith and industrial designer Ben Pawle. Not only were they seeking to build bridges between drivers and bike riders with the ‘smiley glove’, but also build bridges between cyclists. Hudspith describes different types of bike riders as tribes and the growing popularity of cycling in the UK has increased the tension among the two-wheelers.
The gloves were first launched through the kickstarter crowd funding platform and were immediately successful. Now Loffi are seeking international growth and reached out to Bicycles Network Australia to review these.
While it would be easy to dwell on the ‘peace and positivity’ of the Loffi gloves, this would be forgetting that these are essentially winter cycling gloves. In this review I will first tackle the tech and functionality, and then return back to the smiley which is the cherry on top.
Loffi Cycling Glove Tech
Loffi provided a size L and a size S for review. Both were sized by measuring the circumference of the palm and finger length. When the gloves arrived, the packaging include a sticker to highlight that the gloves may be initially tight but will loosen over time.
The black full fingered gloves comprise of a few different materials, Loffi promote the AX Connect Suede which is used for the palms and (bottom of the) fingers. On the palms the materials is double-layered and provides a little more palm protection but keeps the seams (from the smiley) away from the palms of your hands. The AXE Connect suede extends to the finger tips and allows you to use a smart phone.
On the back of the glove, polyester is used and it feels like thin neoprene though is only slightly elastic. The gloves extend to generously cover the wrists, exactly what you need from winter gloves. The bottom of the wrist (section) has polyester and elastic (spandex) with provides more pliability to get your hands in and out.
The smiley face on the palm is listed as PORON, a polyurethane material. I suspect that this refers to the padded insert which is covered with the white material that makes up the smiley faces on the palm of each glove. On the back of the glove, the smiley face and brand name are printed in a reflective material.
It is obvious that thought has gone into the design and this is confirmed by small details such as the suede thumb section (for wiping sweat from your brow), small tags inside the gloves to help you put them on and flatlock stitching at the wrist for comfort. Overall, they are neat and feel like a quality item.
Winter Glove Performance
Loffi already told me that the gloves may be tight and indeed they were, particularly around the fingers. On my hands, the fingers of the glove were a little long though I prefer longer fingers than short fingers. Despite the ‘smart phone compatible’ material, it is still awkward to use the phone with these gloves on. But who uses a phone while riding? The real advantage is for operating a touch screen cycle computer so this is a thoughtful inclusion.
During the review, the warm European riding temperatures were better suited to short-fingered cycling gloves. But a review is a review, so I tackled a 120km, 32ºC warm weather ride and as expected, the gloves became hot and unbearable. I can’t fault them for this as they are winter gloves.
Though I did face issues with comfort and I found that the longer the rider, the more uncomfortably tight the gloves became. A small disclaimer however is that Loffi say that new gloves will take a few rides and washes to soften. My practical solution was to I stop using these for longer road cycling trips and just only for shorter commutes by bike. I am assuming that the gloves will soften enough so that they are more comfortable for the next season of winter cycling.
For cold-weather riding I am confident that the gloves will do their job and keep your hands warm though during the review period it has not been possible to provide an accurate assessment. My guess is that for long rides, and temperatures down to 5ºC they should provide sufficient warmth and wind protection. For short rides, I expect that they will protect you down to about zero degrees. This covers most winter riding conditions across Australia. In the mountains and particularly cold regions these may reach their limits quickly and heavy duty, padded gloves would be necessary.
For riders familiar with winter cycling, some padded gloves make it hard to operate the gear and brake lever. The good news for the Loffi’s is that gear changes and braking were problemless. They are neither too thick or cumbersome as to limit your dexterity.
An unanswered question I have is how long will it be until the white smiley on the palm becomes grubby. Of course I would try to regularly wash the gloves (also to wear them in) but anyone who cycles regularly knows that white cycling gear is not as forgiving, especially when there is a lot of contact such as the palm of the gloves.
Just Smile and Wave Boys, Smile and Wave
This is the part of the review to return to the positivity and determine how well these gloves where able to spread joy and happiness to others. I seriously went overboard and used every possible interaction with drivers, pedestrians and other riders to wave and show them the smiley. “Hey everyone, look at me, I got smiley faces and am going to make sure you notice them”.
The reality was that the majority of the time there wasn’t any noticeable reaction and I believe this to be a combination of three factors.
Firstly, road users have to specifically notice, recognise and then react to the smiley face. This is a big ask because they are not expecting it or specifically looking for it. Their natural behaviour when they see a bike rider, for example, may instead concentrate on your face or simply not to ‘compute’ the whole picture. If they are just glancing in your direction, the smiley can be lost in the visual noise.
Secondly, the most obvious scenario to use your smiley is when you are approaching (or opposite to) a pedestrian or driver. While riding, this scenario is merely one of many different interactions with traffic, but for the Loffi glove is the one where you can attempt to connect and may also notice a reaction. When I ride, it is common courtesy to wave ‘thanks’ to a driver who has passed safely (many check in their rear vision mirror). Perhaps they will notice the Smiley then but I don’t know that. Nor can I see if a driver reacts when I signal to turn and try and make the reflective smileys visible when indicating.
Finally, a lot of people are simply grumpy… bike riders included 🙁
I tried for weeks to give the bus driver who I regularly encounter at an intersection each morning a great excuse to enjoy a better day. Nothing. I tried to wave to sleepy morning drivers and angry afternoon drivers. Nothing much came back. Even fellow bike riders appear are usually too cool to notice or too insecure to wave back.
I mentioned previously that the gloves are not a magic bullet and a friendly wave and smile in the right situation may not induce any noticeable response… but sometimes it does. While testing, a memorable situation was when motorist specifically waited for me to pass before turning (even though she could have rushed though). I naturally thanked here with a smile and the smiley. She noticed and I could see her face light up with a big smile. As I passed, I could she how both she and her passenger were thrilled, it was one of those moments that brighten the day.
To be frank, It would be fantastic if these were like an on/off switch and could instantly make everyone happy and relaxed. But I am still OK that these are winter cycling gloves with the bonus smiley. Winter cycling cloves are usually priced in the realm of $40 – $120 (but stretching up to $180). The Loffi’s have a price point of $60 (including delivery from overseas) so are very attractively priced for a well made pair of gloves.
The Loffi cycling gloves are compelling in their design and the positive messaging. For $60 (delivered), consider these as winter cycling gloves first, the smiley is the cherry on top. Even if smiley effect doesn’t always work on others, they can still work on the most important person of all… you.
More details and purchasing: loffi.cc